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, and trade news and intelligence. Although the Wandering People are nomads, they are strikingly different from most tribal people in Minaria. They do not like empty wasteland and must depend on settled communities of foreigners for their livelihood. The Wanderer, as the individual of their nation is often called, is generally a wagon-box dweller. Over the centuries the tribesmen came to prefer life in the outdoors, taking shelter in town only during harsh winters. Even so, the Wandering People have always dreamed of a place of their own free from sus picion and persecution. They do not intend to settle there, but to instead use it for "safe ground" for their assemblies, the Corneiu-Derga. Life is hard enough for the Wandering People on the road. Some Wanderers ensconce themselves in cities during the cold months, but if they do not return to the road in springtime they are no longer considered true Wanderers and lose status. Despite the stigma, some clans have grown into semi-nomads, making their way from town to town, staying some months in each earning their bread as sieve-, spoon-, bowl-makers, knife-sharpeners, rag-pickers, and other minor occupations. A famous glass-blower of Tadafat called himself a Wanderer, but his nomad kin called him an ignerna, a Wanderer term for a mule who cannot keep up and so is cast-off and left behind to fend for itself. Many Wanderers actually dare the fury of winter out in the open, and not always from a lack of rent money. Corwel of Attara, a collector of the nation's countless stories, likens them to wasps who settle into any convenient cranny for their winter hibernation -- a ruin, a cave, a burned village, or even an abandoned military entrenchment. The Wanderers who winter in towns do not soon assimilate. They tend to rent only what comes cheapest -- usually dilapidated hovels in the beggars' and thieves quarters of the town. These unheated, bare rooms are packed with traveling gear and only a few tribespeople stay in them as guards during day light. The rest of the clan comb the city in search of food or look for a chance to steal or to do business. Some Wanderers have actually become wealthy and have bought houses, but most often they will pay a lawyer to manage these properties as rental real estate, while the owner himself sleeps in a wagon box along the roadway. Such wealthy Wanderers are few. When the tribesmen have gold, they tend to spend it profligately. Wanderer People in the countryside are often considered mere robbers, but they earn more as itinerant laborers, often taking jobs as blacksmiths, locksmiths, and harvesters. Their wages are quickly spent and their wagons are packed with costly costumes and impractical baubles -- which are generally bartered away as the inevitable bad times return. The tribesmen do not show much grief at the loss of their tawdry goods; they demonstrate no strong attachments to anything at all, except for family, friends, and the neces sities of his life -- wagon, horse, and donkey. While circumstance might deprive the Wanderer even of these, he does not discourage easily and takes bold steps to acquire a new horse and wagon. The Wandering People train their children to beg, but this is policy, not a sign of abject demoralization. The Wanderer in fact takes considerable pride in his independence, seldom seeking help from others -- not even from members of his tribe better off then him. Unpopular with outsiders, Wanderers might be treated worse than they are, except for the fact that they have the reputation for working powerful magic. Stories are told how people who attack Wanderers or cruelly humiliate them are cursed. Yet the magical skills of the Wanderers are exaggerated. True, many tribesmen actually do know sleight of hand, fortune-telling, and the use of herbal medicines and poisons, but not many practice real magic. As a whole, though, they have a strong mystic bent, and a form of shamanism has always flourished inside the nation. It is also true that most traveling bands have a wizard or witch in them. Whenever a Wanderer encampment is located near a foreign community, it becomes a source of suspicion, but also a magnet for people seeking mischief and entertainment. The camp often turns itself into a sort of carnival with fortunetellers, tricksters, and acrobats striving to amuse and also, alas, to gull visitors out of their coins. Like all Ercii, the Wandering People are a good-looking race. Elves tend to leanness and humans to stockiness, but the half-blood often enjoys a happy
The Ercii and the Wandering People
The Elves maintain that no half-bloods existed in Neuth before the coming of the Sion Hac, human invaders who ruled Neuth for more than a hundred years. The history of these obscure tribesmen is lost, but it is supposed that they were a primitive group which formerly lived west of Elfland until driven east by the Ogres in the Sixth Century (circa 565 A.C.). Elven history makes it appear that Sion Hac rule in Elfland consisted of nothing more than temples burned, houses looted, daughters ravaged, and Elven patriots hanged. To this day an Elf may be fined and sent to a forced labor gang merely for denying that the Sion Hac were human beasts beyond the pale, sadists and madmen all. No doubt their rule was harsh, but the most rankling offense they ever committed against the Elves must have been to strip them of their pride. After they fell, the Elves wished to efface every trace of their existence except for calumnies; but they were never quite ruthless enough to stamp out the living legacy which their enemies left behind -- their part-Elf, part-human descendants, the erciir, a term of contempt meaning "half-bloods". If law and custom had not always isolated the Ercii in their own communities, the minority might have been peacefully absorbed into the general population by now. But such a solution was abhorrent to the leaders of Elfland, who thus perpetuated the problem through the centuries. Although the Ercii were forced to the bottom of society, they were, oddly enough, left free of some of its worst constraints. Certain types of work, such as rag-picking, money-lending, fulling, and astrological forecasting, were considered so demeaning that few Elves would engage in them, and so the halfbloods were able to eke out a humble livelihood. In fact, as the centuries passed any trade that the Ercii engaged in soon became stigmatized. Some Ercii grew prosperous, but at first they were scrupulous not to flaunt their wealth, lest it be confiscated. Later on, as Neuth's government grew more corrupt, rich Ercii paid bribes to officials, who then allowed them to live in ostentation. True-blood Elves reacted with anger, and so corrupt office holders sometimes diverted public anger from themselves by stirring up resentment against the Ercii. During one public explosion, a large community of half-blood herbalists, astrologers, and hedge wizards was routed from their homes by rioting mobs. Instead of protecting them, the government confiscated whatever the rioters hadn't already taken. Ruined outcasts in their own land, the affected Ercii pulled up stakes and fled abroad. These first half-blood exiles soon found themselves subject to suspicion in the outside world. This attitude was hardened by the pilfering habits that these Ercii had developed during their days of privation. Finding themselves unwelcome, the outcasts developed into a nation without borders, wandering along the roads of Minaria in tribal bands, becoming famous as the "Wandering People." They kept their reputation as magic-users and thieves. They are particularly apt to steal magic devices when they can find them. The Wandering People developed a rich culture of their own with feast-days and
medium. Beyond that, they tend to be fair complexioned and even-featured. Ercii age somewhat more rapidly than Elves, but less quickly than humans do and usually are less overweight in their middle years. Wanderer girls are proverbial for their beauty and, reputedly, for their wantonness. Harlotry is in fact practiced by Wanderer women, but tribal custom discourages it except in bad times. Much of the bad reputation that Wanderer females draw comes from their folk tradition of public dancing. Unlike non-Wanderer Ercii, the Wandering People tend to marry only within their own nation. Because they fear being assimilated and vanishing as a distinct people, elders insist that foreigners who desire to marry a Wanderer must join the tribe and travel as they do. This discourages many mixed marriages, which is the intent. On the other hand, if the passion is so intense that the outsider is willing to give up his or her own way of life, the newcomer is welcomed with good will. Most of the stories outsiders tell of the Wandering People center on their clev erness as thieves, their seductions, and the curses they place if angered. The latter may be petty, such as an itching ear, or as terrible as the curse of the werewolf. In the year 1240, the court magician Corfu tired of being a mere power behind the throne. Thus he murdered the king of Muetar and his entire family, except, some say, prince Rustad, who vanished. Regardless of Rusted's fate, Egalon rallied much support against the usurpation. Corfu was dismayed to find that his public grasping of power made his overall position weaker, not stronger. Corfu therefore sought to secure his power by increasing his arsenal of magic weapons. He sent an invitation to the elders of the Wandering People, offering them sanctuary in exchange for magic devices and the support of their troop of warriors, themselves the wielders of magic weapons. The pact was made and Wandering People clans congregated in the place that Corfu had set aside for them, coming and going as they pleased. They gifted their evil patron the Flying Carpet, the Guiding Light, and the Spinning Wheel, as well as a thousand able warriors. The court of Basimar teemed with their expert thieves and magic-users. All who had hoped for an early overthrow of the tyrant felt discouraged now that he had gained such powerful new allies. Egalon knew he must act. He knew that the Wandering People haf no love for Corfu and only a strained agreement maintained their support for him. Foremost, the prince learned that the agreement required Corfu to protect the Wandering People from persecution. The rebel resolved to show the tribe that Corfu couldn't protect them, risking the chance that the Wandering People would take harsh vengeance against him. Egalon chose to strike when many Wandering People were gathered to celebrate one of their Great Days. A sec ondary force made a diversionary attack to draw Corfu's forces away, then struck hard at the tribe's camps. The rebels rode down and sabred everything that moved, while their varlets came up behind to torch the wagons, tents, and virtually everything else that belonged to the Wandering People. After the rebels had withdrawn, the Wandering People could rightfully have taken harsh vengeance against Egalon, but in their despair their anger congealed upon "King" Corfu, who had promised them safety, but who had instead taken their own warriors away. So the elder sorcerers of the tribe pronounced a terrible curse upon the wizard Corfu, inflicting the "Curse of the Full Moon." For months thereafter Corfu became a man-wolf for three nights each month, prowling the fields and forests half-man and half-beast, feasting on the flesh and blood of man and animals alike. Corfu became preoccupied with his curse and the rebels gained ground against his forces. But he was a mighty sorcerer in his own right and discovered a hardbut-effective means to rid himself of his curse. He did this by drawing the black magic into his left hand, which he then struck off with a magical knife. The harsh cure achieved its objective, but forever after the Hand of Corfu had the power to both make and unmake werewolves. But by that time the Wandering People had already withdrawn from war-torn
Muetar, leaving nothing behind except a reputation that no monarch in the world would ever again take lightly. Most Ercii, however, are not Wandering People. After the flight of the Wanderers from Neuth, the oppression of the half-bloods did not cease. In irregular waves over the centuries individuals and groups have left Neuth. Many Ercii can now be found in homesteads and colonies all over Minaria. Addat has enough of these outlanders for them to form a neighborhood of their own called "Ercii Town." The occupations of the foreign-dwelling Ercii are many. They had been good merchants and bankers in Elfland and have done well in those fields elsewhere. They have the inborn Elven skill at craftsmanship, as well as the aggressive zeal of humans to make good. Although few lands welcome Ercii actively, they work at many trades. Frequently their daughters contract worthy marriages with wealthy foreigners, though as a whole the Ercii prefer to marry their own kind. Many of the poorer Ercii are not above engaging in acting, public dancing, smuggling, and money-lending. Many of their race, those with little wit or luck, still do the humble work they used to do in Elfland. Not all Ercii live in towns. Those who came from a rural background in Neuth have often sought a life of hunting, trapping, and small-farming. The largest group of rural, settled Ercii is found in the town of Willowik in the Wetlands south of Neuth. They are fine woodsman and bring down large game by use of herbpoisoned arrows. Despite their diaspora, Ercii are ever hospitable to one another. The people of Willowik are on especially good terms with the Wandering People and Wanderers are well-hosted in the Wetlands. Likewise, Ercii are kindly-received when they encounter Wandering People. For the most part however, Ercii and Wanderer prefer to keep their own way of life, unless a love affair is involved. The Ercii of Willowik have their own mercenary company for hire. It has grown infamous for its use of poisoned arrows -- a practice usually shunned by other Minarians. Poisoned arrows make their mercenary bands more powerful, but it creates extremely bad will amongst their enemies. It is not unknown for captured Ercii soldiers to be scratched by their own arrow. This ordeal is fatal unless the warrior has had the chance to take the antidote shortly before the fateful test. Even then hanging may follow. An exotic quality ever hangs about the Ercii and many stories of high-born maidens being seduced by handsome Ercii boys is a common theme in poetry, such as in this famous ballad:
Quaid the Ercii Lad
Why bide thee all alone, fair one, Why bide thee all alone? Thou'rt promised to a high lord's son And soon shalt be his own. Aye, thou shalt be his own, his all -No reason to wax sad. But, ah, she let her teardrops fall For Quaid the Ercii lad. Now let this foolish grief be quit And dry thy eyes so red; Young Ludd is chief of Averwitt And lord of Lannarmed. He's honored and well-loved by all, The kindest master had. But, ah, she let her teardrops fall For Quaid the Ercii lad. Gowns of silk shall be thy pride, With gold mesh for thy hair, Downy cloaks all gaily dyed, And diamonds clear and rare. You'll be the envy of them all, Bejeweled and ermine-clad.
But, ah, she let her teardrops fall For Quaid the Ercii lad. The temple filled at morningtide, The candles glittered there. But the wedding chamber lacked a bride; They sought her everywhere. Though they searched throughout the land, The maiden was not had; She's o'er the border far away With Quaid the Ercii lad. Aye, she's o'er the border far away With Quaid the Ercii lad.
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